Tuesday, March 31, 2015

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 47 (federalization and pluralism)

Second from right: WFBW President Jacky Jackers at the congress of the 
Panafrican Federation of Wood and Building Workers in Lomé, Togo 
at the FOPADESC Centre of ODSTA, august 2003

About a year after the WCL World Congress in Rumania more and more was heard about a possible merger between WCL and ICFTU. It was hard to believe that the ACV/CSC would agree with a merger because what would they win with such a merger? In practice the WCL was more or less an extension of the ACV/CSC which meant that the ACV/CSC could play a bigger role on international level than what normally could be expected from a strong confederation in such a small country as Belgium. Of course the ICFTU could try to isolate the WCL on international level but on long term this could damage the image of the ICFTU as an international organization that respects democracy and pluralism.

Besides, what was there to win for the ACV/CSC by becoming a member of a new big international trade union organization? Now everybody still listened to ACV/CSC as one of the most important organisations of the WCL. What would remain of this ACV/CSC influence at international level if it was only one of many voices. A voice lost between the powerful German DGB, the Brittish TUC and above all the North American AFL/CIO? Asking the question, is answering it.

 Bert van der Spek, Secretary General and Jacky Jackers, 
President of the WFBW, talking to trade union leaders 
of a construction union in Indonesia. 
The union members were on strike because of a wage conflict. April 2004

The first strong sign that a debate was going on within the ACV/CSC about a merger of WCL with ICFTU was a letter from President Jacky Jackers of the World Federation of Building and Woodworkers WFBW addressed to ACV/CSC President Luc Cortebeeck of 25th october 2003:

attitude WFBW (including ACV Building and Industry) regarding the developments between WCL / ICFTU and WFBW / IFBWW / EFBW.

1.With regard to WCL and ICFTU:
ACV-BI stands for more cooperation. Even more, we must not wait longer but instead take initiative.
We prefer a Federation. In such a system each organization will pay for activities that have been agreed in advance. We are well aware that the ICFTU would prefer to talk about a merger!
Setting up a new organization so WCL and ICFTU disappear, corresponds to a merger where only changes the name. Pluralism is not structurally guaranteed! We believe that the WCL must continue to exist on confederal level. In Africa, Latin America and Asia, one is not ready to process further steps.

2. With regard to WFBW and WCL:
Here the central debate is about that the members of WFBW are actually willing to pay their dues, but they question why the WFBW has to pay the same amount of dues to the WCL?
In other words one says that the functioning of the WCL does not match with the investment made, that is to say one chooses very clear for more resources for trade union action.

3. With regard to WFBW, IFBWW and EFBW:
I mention here also the European Federation because within the IFBWW one believes that because of the past, the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers is part of the IFBWW. About pluralism is not spoken here!

Some remarks with regard to the EFBW:
1. Since 1989 ACV - BI is a member of the European Federation and has developed well its place.
2. Since the last general meeting of the EFBW, the WFBW is recognized. This means that where you in the past had to be a member of the IFBWW before you could become a member of the EFBW, now it is allowed to be only a member of the WFBW.
3. The Building & Wood trade union of the ACLVB (the liberal Confederation) has asked for membership of the EFBW. We as ACV-BI accept this, but the socialist trade union has inmediately asked the trade union to become a member of the ...IFBWW! A good start!

Construction workers on strike in Indonesia, april 2004.

4. With regard to WFBW and IFBWW
The last years there have been several meetings about cooperation. Roel de Vries, President of the IFBWW, has always insisted on a merger and was surely not for pluralism.
Tuesday 18/11/2003 there will be another meeting with the IFBWW. Our position will be: active cooperation (ILO, European Works Councils, World Works Councils) structured in a Federation to which dues are agreed. This proposal is also supported by the Netherlands, France and Suisse.”

According to this letter the following commitments were proposed to the ACV/CSC President with regard to the future relations with ICFTU and the ICFTU oriented International Trade Union Federations:

No merger but the creation of federal structures with the aim to cooperate as much as possible and to guarantee pluralism on all levels: confederal level (WCL) as well as on the level of the International Trade Union Federations.
It is expressed explicitly in the letter that the WCL must continue to exist.
The continental organizations of Africa, Asia and Latin America are considered to be not ready for a merger.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


An ITUC staged protest
The article on the website of the on-line paper 'Bussiness Standard' called “International trade unions need to be less combative,encourage more interaction with workers” is a mixture of gossip and some critical opinions, with the main goal to repudiate the ITUC, especially regarding its actions in the Gulf region. “For example, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has urged the United Nations to look into the plight of thousands of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates, including those building a new Louvre Museum and the world's largest Guggenheim, reportedly and allegedly being treated as slave labour. Elsewhere, this trade union body has severely criticized Qatar for its failure to give more rights to the work force and appears relentless in its pursuit to help strip Qatar of its right to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup. They have ensured that the campaign is not only relentless, but also aggressive, and at times, questionable. It was recently pointed out in a news report that bodies like the ITUC have employed dubious means during their alleged investigation of workers' conditions.”

Strange enough, in the article there are no facts or data that prove that the ITUC reports on labor practices in the Gulf region are wrong. Instead, some spokesman are staged to criticize the ITUC. For example about corruption: A personnel stationed at the Swiss-based office of ITUC located in the ILO building in Geneva revealed on the condition of anonymity that, "in 2013/14, the ILO fired more than 600 employees in an effort to save costs. ITUC agreed not to lobby the ILO on this issue in return for maintaining its funding!"

In the article the observation is made that the ITUC focusses to much on the organized sectors (probably is meant the formal economic sector): “Mr. Krishnamoorthy, a former official with the ILO, who is now based in Bangalore, in a telephonic conversation, said trade unions needed to focus more on the unorganized rather than the organized sectors. He said he would like to see institutions like ITUC train their attention on what he called "the real deprived persons", and added that it was his view that such bodies currently represent just about seven to eight per cent of the work force.”

International AIDS Day 2011 in front of the International Trade Union House in Brussels, the ITUC headquarters.

Traditionally trade unions all over the world have always focussed on the formal contracted industrial worker. It is indeed time to change this focus because of the changes in the labour force world wide but this is not easy. This starts with the simple question 'how to organise workers who are informally working in the streets, in illegal sweatshops, in changing workplaces and so on? Even if you have the answer on these questions, it costs a lot of time to change the “traditional” trade union culture which is historically directed to what is generally called “the working class”? It is the same problem as for example changing the male dominated trade union culture in a more female friendly culture.

Another more severe critic is that the ITUC is becoming bureaucratic: “There are tendencies of some labor unions to become bureaucratic and for the union leaders and staff to become detached from the needs and interests of the rank and file union members. Interestingly, one of the ways ITUC is funded is through contribution by global affiliates. Spending money every year to have an organization like ITUC fighting for your piece of the pie needs to be justified. INTUC's Rajendra revealed: "We pay huge amounts of money as annual fees to ITUC. Sometimes, we even pay half-yearly. We hope we get much more in turn, in terms of training programs and skill development."

Picture taken at the ITUC University in the University of Kwazulu Natal.

This kind of critics you hear regularly within and outside the trade union and especially about international trade unions. It is indeed “a normal phenomenon” that large -umbrella- organisations like for example international trade union federations tend to go away from the rank and file members and become bureaucratic.
The only remedy is that the organisation is clearly structured from bottom to top and not top to bottom. This includes also a certain leadership culture, which means that they understand very well that the only legitimation for their positions and activities are the member trade unions (so not presidents, employers or other high placed persons) and that they morally and financially are accountable to these members.

However, leadership includes also having a vision and ideas about what should be done, what should be priorities and what not, what is relevant for the future and what not. That makes leadership more complicated than one might believe. Besides, leadership means also the capacity to take decisions in difficult circumstances and how to manage the budget?

What astonishes that there are no remarks made in the article about the lack of pluralism in the international trade union movement. It is well known in politics, in social life and also in the economic field that a lack of pluralism leads to monopolistic attitudes, to a culture of arrogance, to a certain kind of bureaucratic way of thinking and to a lack of dynamism and innovation. It makes even corruption more easier. Leaders can be “sold” by money or high (political) positions. That is the reason why open pluralistic democratic societies are more developed, have less corruption, more innovation and dynamics of change. And it is certain that what is true for societies, applies also to (international) trade unions. The people of “Bussiness Standard” should think about that.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Opening of the World Trade Union Assembly for the defense of the rights of workers against multinational corporations, Santiago de Chile, april 1973. In the centre of the photo is President Allende of Chile. On his left Oscar Semerel from Curacao, representing CLAT. Second on the right side of Allende is Henry Molina from the Dominican republic and also representing CLAT as Deputy Secretary General of CLAT charged with foreign affairs.

At the CLAC WOW meeting in Santiago de Chile (see the BLOG “The Meaning of International Trade Unionism" last November I received from Oscar Semerel (trade union leader from Curacao) two photographs. He showed them with a certain amount of pride and nostalgia. He told me about an important international trade union meeting held in the time that the well known Chilean President Allende was still in power. Oscar was invited to the meeting of CLAC-WOW in Chile as president of the CLATJUPAM ( Latin American and Caribbean Federation of pensioned workers and senior citizens). Probably the visit to Chile had reminded him of the photo's he had kept so long. Meanwhile, last December during a congress of the CLATJUPAM in the Dominican Republic, Oscar became honorary president of CLATJUPAM.*

Oscar Semerel presiding the Assembly meeting (first row, third from left)

Both pictures have been made in April 1973 at the “Asamblea Sindical Mundial por la defensa de los derechos de los trabajadores frente a los sociedades multinacionales” ( "World Trade Union Assembly for the defense of the rights of workers against multinational corporations") held in Santiago de Chile. Together with Henry Molina (Deputy Secretary General of CLAT and trade union leader of the Dominican Republic) he represented at the Assembly the former Latin American Workers Confederation CLAT. The idea was that Henry Molina as Deputy Secretary General of CLAT and charged with foreign affairs would be elected as president of the Assembly, but this was blocked by the communist World Federation of Trade Unions WFTU because of “his role in his country”. As a result Oscar was elected president of the Assembly instead of Henry Molina.

Oscar Semerel at the CLAC-WOW meeting in Santiago de Chili, 23 of November 2014

As you can see on the first photo above, the Assembly was officially opened by Chilean President Allende (in the centre of the photo). This was 4 month before the violent coup of general Pinochet (11 September 1973). As President of the Assembly Oscar had the honor to stand on the left side of President Allende. The second on the right side of Allende is Henry Molina. The third on the left of Allende is Ernesto Vogel, President of the Chilean Industrial railway Federation and Vice-President of the Chilean Unitarian Trade Union Confederation CUTch. In the past he had won the presidential elections within the CUTch, but as leader of the christian democratic group within the CUTch, he was not allowed to exercise his presidential functions by a coalition of the left.

I remembered the history vaguely because at that time I was working with CLAT Nederland, the Dutch solidarity association with CLAT. We had an own bimonthly magazine called 'CLAT-Nieuws' (CLAT-News). In the bimonthly the following was written on this Assembly:

The front page of the bimonthly magazine 'CLAT News', September-October 1973

The Chilean unitarian trade union confederation CUTch tried meanwhile to establish cooperation between the various national and international labor organizations on a global scale. The Chilean experience with multinationals had taught them that international solidarity is important. Between 10 and 15 April this year, she had therefore organized a conference for all trade unions in the world. At that congress in Santiago de Chile were 350 delegates gathered from around the world, who together represented 400 million workers. The ICFTU did not participate in the conference. She refuses to cooperate with the communist organizations that were present at the conference. The ICFTU apparently holds rigidly to its "anti-communist" line. She still cherishes the cold war ideology while the multinational companies have forgotten it ... " (CLAT News, September-October 1973, 4th year number 6, page 14)

Photo of the audience at the CLATJUPAM Congress held in the Dominican Republic, December 2014. The right X is the elected President José Gomez Cerda (Dominican Republic), former Secretary General of the WCL Trade Union federation for small farmers and farmworkers FEMTAA. On the left elected Vice-President Eduardo Garcia Moure (Venezuela), former Secretary General of CLAT. (photo taken from Facebook message of José Gomez Cerda)

* The VII Congress of the Latin American and Caribbean Federation of pensioned workers, seniors and older people (CLATJUPAM), held in Santo Domingo, closed yesterday by electing a new Executive Committee headed by President José Gómez Cerda, (Dominican Republic) and Vice-President Eduardo García Moure (Venezuela).
CLATJUPAM its activities and actions are inspired by the values and demands of Pensioned Workers, Senior Citizens and Older People who are seen as human beings with earned rights from employment and acts autonomous and independent from political parties, employers, governments and religions. The values and principles outlined in the Declaration and Principles are based on the principles of integral humanism.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Informal trade along the road en Mexico, Villahermosa 2010

Bieler (Trouble in the international labour movement: is the ITUC ready for the challenges ahead?believes that it is not possible to transform the ITUC into an organisation that will be more oriented to the trade unions in the poor countries. Therefore he proposes to organize a Global South: “The main emphasis should be placed on organising the Global South instead and developing a South-South strategy in the interest of Southern workers through new institutions such as the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights.” 
Such a proposal is a denial of the ability of mankind to develop a spirit of solidarity between rich and poor, be it on individual level, international trade union level or countries. Mankind has shown through his history that he is more than his socio-economic interests. The human being is also a spiritual being which it makes possible to transcend his own socio-economic interests based on values, visions and beliefs on how society and state should be organised.
Therefore it is very well possible to unite trade unions of rich and poor countries in a spirit of solidarity in one Global Union like the ITUC. But then immediately comes the question of values, visions and beliefs. Because of supposed workers solidarity the ITUC was from the outset against institutionalization of the differences in values, visions and beliefs within the new Global Trade Union. 
Maybe this was for former ICFTU members a normal state of affairs, however, for the WCL members this was not the case. On the contrary, for WCL members the spirit of solidarity goes not only beyond the socio-economic interests but includes also values, visions and beliefs. Why WCL leadership gave away this dimension of solidarity at the merger is a mystery that will probably be solved in the future.

Informal trade in gasoline along the road to Cotonou, capital of Benin in West Africa. For the merchant along the way there is no hour or time (2014)

The second challenge Bieler is writing about, the growing informalization of the global economy is probably a more complicated affaire. “This re-organisation of the production process around transnational outsourcing and centralisation of decision-making as part of globalisation, together with a huge influx into urban areas particularly in the Global South, has led to an increasing casualisation and informalisation of the global economy, in which permanent, full-time employment contracts have to a large extent become a feature of the past. In a way, ‘it is no longer accurate today’, Dan Gallin argued already in 2001, ‘to describe the informal sector as “atypical”’ (Gallin, 2001: 228). It has increasingly become the norm. This is especially the case in developing countries, which had never been in a position to establish a large industrial sector with permanent and secure employment (Bieler, Lindberg and Pillay, 2008: 266). Nevertheless, informalisation more and more also affects developed countries in the North, where employers are on the offensive and demand a flexibilisation of the labour market with the argument that this would be necessary in order to retain competitiveness. Peter Waterman (2012: 3) estimates that the traditional working class makes up only 15 per cent of the global workforce, with the remaining 85 per cent being part of the informal economy. As the traditional relationship between employer and employee ‘is being replaced by a variety of more diffuse and indirect but nonetheless dependent relationships in the process of production, trade union organising can no longer focus primarily on the employment relationship’ (Gallin, 2001: 233).”
Bieler believes that the ITUC is not prepared to attack the problem of growing informalization of the global economy, despite the fact that the Indian Self Employed Women’s Association was accepted as affiliate by the ITUC. 

Street vendors posing together with Maritza Chireno (on the right), President of the Latin American Federation FETRALCOS, in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, 2010. FETRALCOS organizes  workers in the Informal Sectors already the nineties in the past century.

Labour Informalization is not an easy challenge, not in the south, not in the north. In the southern part of the world there is a lack of investments to create formal productive jobs and there is no real industrial and agricultural policy. There are many causes for this: unequal and unjust distribution of income, no respect for labor laws, underdeveloped trade unions, poor tax collection, lack of political stability or even worse like (civil) wars, unclear rules on ownership and conflict regulation, corruption, lack of capital, lack of local entrepreneurs and so on. In many of these countries no balance has yet been found between political and economic development together with social justice.
In the northern countries the entrance of China on the world market has put pressure on the production costs and therefore also wages. Besides, in countries like China wages are low because there is to little or no freedom of trade union organisation and to negotiate wages. As an answer on this pressure on the production costs, employers in the north respond with outsourcing of work, flexibilisation and automatisation (industrial robots) as ways to lower costs of production. Thanks to the social welfare state, that is the institutionalization of solidarity through social funds, the informal sectors are relatively still small in the north. 
But undoubtedly because of these trends, institutionalized solidarity (social security) is under pressure because of high unemployment rates, high labor costs and lately the aging of the population which makes pension systems more costly. How to lower the cost of labor and at the same time maintain the social security systems? At the moment there are two main solutions that are debated. A tax shift from labor to assets to make labor cheaper for employers without affecting the wages. To respond to the aging of the population, the retirement age is moved to 67 years and early retirement possibilities limited.
As we see, there is no global answer to all these problems. The differences between countries are too large, even between the countries of the European Union like for example between Germany and Greece, and even more between the regions in the world. For these reasons it is not easy to manage this in a Global Trade Union. What can be a good economic policy for one country or region, can be bad policy for another country. This makes solidarity on Global level and even on European level difficult and then we have not yet talked about differences in values, visions and beliefs about how society, government and state should be organized to respond effectively to all these problems.
To be continued

Friday, March 6, 2015


WCL Confederal Board with ILO Director general Somalia as guest speaker, Washington DC 2000.

Some weeks ago, to my big surprise I read on Wikipedia about the World Confederation of Labor the following about “Globalization and ITUC merger”:

As globalization became more of a threat to union membership throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the WCL increased its efforts to carry out a similar global unification of labour leadership. Its 1993 congress in Mauritius attempted to lay out a concrete strategy for responding to business attacks on organized labour around the world. The WCL soon obtained consultative status within the International Labour Organization and joined the International Council of the World Social Forum. (1)

The WCL was formally dissolved on 31 October 2006 when it merged with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) to form the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Since the time of merger, many trade unions especially in the Global South have become disillusioned with the ITUC. The dominant affiliates of the ITUC are not independent of their ruling classes, even if they organizationally seem to be, but they are politically tied to the ruling establishment.[7]. The junior employees of ITUC are paid minimally and the trade union uses ineffective retired people to save costs, whereas the management leads a lavish lifestyle”

Participants of the Coordination Meeting of Latijn  American federations affiliated to WOW,
 Santiago de Chile November 2014.

The surprise relates of course to the last 3 sentences of the paragraph above. However, to my surprise a few weeks later the last 3 sentences had disappeared from the Wikipedia article. If you look to 'view  history' (the knob above the WCL article on the right side), you will find the old paragraph (25 January).

The critical passages are based on a blog called “Trouble in theinternational labour movement: is the ITUC ready for the challengesahead?” of Andreas Bieler, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Nottingham/UK (note 7) and an article called "International trade union need to be less combative, encouragemore interaction with workers" in ANI, New Delhi, December 26, 2014 (note 8).

European Trade Union demonstration organized by the ETUC, Brussels, March 2013.
The French communist trade union confederation CGT was also present.

Bieler opens his blog with the following observation on the merger:

The establishment of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in November 2006, resulting from a merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL), was greeted with enthusiasm by labour movements from around the world. A united, stronger international trade union promised greater input on global politics towards more equality. Since then, many trade unions especially in the Global South have become disillusioned with the ITUC. In this post, I will assess to what extent the ITUC is prepared for the key challenges of the global economy in the 21 century.”

Bieler distinguishes two challenges: Two key challenges for the ITUC can be identified in the global economy, the increasing inequality between developed and developing countries, between the rich and the poor, and the expanding informal sector of the economy.”

Press Conference at the office of the African Federation FPE, affiliated to WOW. Lomé, Togo, February 2014.

Bieler doubts whether the Global Union is a truly global union that can accommodate all unions in the world, either coming from the Northern or the Southern part of the world. He refers to an attack of COSATU Secretary General Bongni Masuku on the Northern dominance within the ITUC.

Dominated by the big four Northern unions AFL-CIO (USA), DGB (Germany), TUC (Britain) and RENGO (Japan), the ITUC would defend the current system and safeguard the interests of capital, it is alleged. ‘Despite much talk about trade union independence, the dominant affiliates of the ITUC are not independent of their ruling classes, even if they organisationally seem to be, but they are politically tied to the ruling establishment, hence their vociferous defence of the system’ (Masuku, 2010: 64). Ultimately, it would be the working classes of the Global South, who are the victims of this situation, as they are considered to be affected worst by ‘the viciousness of the global system’. In other words, the ITUC dominated by big Northern trade unions, is accused of co-operating with capital in the continuing exploitation of the South. Unsurprisingly, Southern labour movements increasingly question the use of the ITUC in the representation of their concerns.”

Child Labour School of the BSCWF affiliated to WOW, Bangladesh 2013

May be the words used above are a little bit to strong, but there is some truth in it. Thus I learned during the merger talks that the trade unions of the South were pressed to agree with the merger under the threat that they otherwise would not get more financial support. I also learned that the new structures and rules (statutes) left less room for trade unions from the south than was usual in the WCL and its ITF'S.

The merger was to a certain degree also Eurocentric because of the balance of power within the ETUC between the German DGB, the British TUC, the Scandinavian LO's and to a certain extent the French trade unions. The main goal was also to integrate as much as possible the large (ex)communist trade unions of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. I believe this was one of the reasons why every intent of WCL and its ITF's to look for ways to guarantee organized pluralism within the ITUC and its Global Unions was bluntly rejected.

To be continued

Sunday, March 1, 2015

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 46 (a new federation)

Together with Jacques Jouret (President of the ITF Textile & Cloithing) Jacky Jackers
(President of ITF Construction and Wood) was the initiator for the establishment
 of an independent and autonomous secretariat 'trade action'.
The photo was taken during the Congress of the Pan-African Federation of Building and Wood in Lomé 2003

Since the memorandum of General Secretary Willy Thys about the International Federations, the relations between the Presidents and the WCL General Secretary had not improved ( see: The Downfall of the WCL 38, trade union action paper http://internationalworkers.blogspot.be /2014/08/the-downfall-of-wcl-38-trade-union.html ). The problems between the International Federations and the WCL existed already at the WCL World Congress in Mauritius in 1993. The International Federations felt that they received too little support from the secretariat despite their generous contributions to the WCL. Therefore, the Congress decided that the WCL would make available to the Professional Action 3 full time Executive Secretaries. During the Congress, a start was made through the election of a second Executive Secretary in the person of Dirk Uyttenhoven coming from ACV Textile. Thus there were 1.5 Executive Secretaries, including myself as a half Executive Secretary. However, to 3 full time Executive Secretaries it never came in all the years until 2000.

In the front row third from right WCL Secretary general Willy Thys. Behind him on his right side IFTC President Jack Jouret.
The second left of Jouret is Dirk Uyttenhoven, once an Executive Secretary of the WCL for the International Trade Federations.
The photo has been taken at the IFTC World Congress in Doorn, Netherlands 2003.

For President Jacky Jackers of the World Federation of Building and Wood (WFBW) and Jack Jouret of the International Federation of Textile and Clothing (IFTC) this was an eyesore. Add to that the differences about the affiliation policy between them and the WCL General Secretary and it becomes understandable that the two Presidents were looking for a way out by establishing a common secretariat, independent of the WCL and autonomous. They decided to invite the World Federation of Industrial Workers (WFIW) as so-called "market oriented trade union" to participate The recently elected WFIW chairman Jaap Wienen was prepared to join the 2 International Trade Federations (ITF's) in this common secretariat. For not entirely clearly reasons, the World Federation of Clerical Workers ( WFCW) WVB, although a white-collar union but also a “market oriented trade union” was not invited, despite insistence on my part. Given the poor relations between the WCL Secretary General and myself, it will surprise nobody, that I agreed with the creation of such an independent secretariat of the mentioned 3 ITF's.

The Executive Board of the World federation of Industrial Workers. From left to right:
Leon Van Haudt (finances), Fons van Genechten (secretary general), Jaap Wienen (president),
Carlos Gaitan (vice-president) and Piet Nelissen (executive secretary).
On January 1, 2000 came into force which was simply called the Federation. The three Federation members - WFBW, IFTC and WFIW - paid from that time on not anymore membership fees to the WCL. However, ACV/CSC Building & Industry continued to pay its voluntary annual contribution to the WCL. However, the WCL was expected to provide a number of previously defined services:
- Connection of the Secretariat of the Federation on the computer network of the WCL with corresponding services.
- WCL makes available his mailing address for the Secretariat, as well as telephone and fax.
- WCL provides translation of the documents that are presented by the Secretariat
- WCL provides administrative financial services to the Federation.
- Under the supervision of the Executive Secretary (Piet Nelissen) WCL provides support for the administration of the staff.

Visiting the Minister of Labour of Benin (2000). From left to right: Nebeyu Shone (director coordination office CNV International),
Isabelle Vos (assistant-secretary ITF's secretariat) and Roel Rotshuizen (president World Federation of Clerical Workers)

The three Federation Members agreed on a mutual key for the distribution the costs of the Secretariat. The Secretariat consisted of a full-time Executive Secretary and two assistants / secretaries. Each International Federation would finance its own activities as there are statutory meetings, seminars, regional meetings, conferences etc. Obviously, the Federation relied on other NGOs for the co-financing of activities in the continents as for example CNV International. The Executive Secretary of the secretariat of the Federation continued to attend the usual weekly coordination meetings of the WCL. The WCL General Secretary on his turn continued to attend the coordination meetings of the Presidents of the International Federations, the so-called Trade Action Committee CAP.

On the 25th WCL World Congress in Romania (20-27 October 2001) WFIW Chairman Jaap Wienen (boardmember of the CNV Industrial Trade Union) was elected WCL Deputy General Secretary. Under his leadership, a major three-year project was launched to strengthen the WCL international trade union federations (ITF's), funded by CNV International. Talks about the project had already started from 1999 onwards until the WCL Congress (memorandum of Jaap Wienen to Jack Jouret as the President of the 'Trade Action Committee' January 7, 1999). The project was a so-called "training the trainers" project. The project provided training programs for key members of the trade union federations (trade action) in the continents who in turn could train other people of the federations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The courses covered a wide field of skills, from communications to administration, from management to decision-making. The technical implementation was in the hands of three specially recruited staff members and a secretarial assistant, all managed by Jaap Wienen.

Although Jaap Wienen himself as chairman of the WFIW had supported the establishment of the Federation of the 3 ITF's, the project for the strengthening of the Trade Action was held totally outside the ITF's. In practice, it was a WCL project carried out with the help of the regional WCL organizations in the continents. The ITF's could only give advice through the WCL Trade Action Committee (CAP) and through their Executive Secretaries.This structure - political and financial – with the Deputy General Secretary of the WCL as a project manager reinforced the centralized nature of the WCL secretariat instead of strengthening the structures and the networks of the ITF's. This was not only contrary to the WCL professed principle of subsidiarity but worsened also the already existing confusion between the regional organizations and the regional federations affiliated to the ITF's. The International Federations stood practically with empty hands.